Spotlight On: Ophelie

Ophelie-1Here’s a name that’s compelling for breaking my rule. Let’s face it, sometimes rules can be restricting. Sometimes rules must be broken.

Ophelie breaks my intuitive pronunciation rule. The pronunciation is not so intuitive, but oh so lovely. (It’s pronounced o-fay-LEE.)

Ophelie isn’t difficult to say once you know how to say it. The trick is knowing how to say it. While Ophelie is the French form of Ophelia, it is not pronounced like Ophelia with an E on the end. To boil it down:

WRONG = “o-FEEL-ye”
RIGHT = “o-fay-LEE”

Just five years ago, many Americans wouldn’t have understood this name, at least based on disheartening comments on Yahoo from a few years ago. Responses to Yahoo questions are not a scientific gauge but give an idea of many people’s attitudes at any given time. But Americans have been known for quickly changing their minds, and with Ophelie, I firmly believe many Americans will eventually grow to love this French take on Ophelia.

In France, the name appears to be past its peak. In 2010 (the most recent year French name data is available) Ophelie ranked at #306,  much lower than its 2000 rank at #77. France’s loss could be America’s gain.

French names are not difficult for Americans and have had a place in America for a long time. Thirty years ago Michelle, Nicole, Danielle, and Renee were hot. Today Adeline and Esme are hot. Perhaps Ophelie and similar names like Aurelie will be next.

After Olivia steps aside for Ophelia (one of our 2013 Rising Stars), Ophelia will step aside for Ophelie. After Aria and Arianna step aside for Aurelia, Aurelia will step aside for Aurelie. These possibilities are not inconceivable.

Ophelie-2The name has a couple of drawbacks, which could be eliminated if the name becomes more familiar. One of them is unfamiliar pronunciation, and the other is various spell checks flagging Ophelie as misspelled, and suggesting Ophelia as a replacement. This may lead some practical folks to ask, “Then why not just use Ophelia?”

Ophelia is a lovely name, and I endorse it. But for those who prefer Ophelie, I endorse that name too. One advantage Ophelie has over Ophelia is that it doesn’t have that “feel ya” sound in the middle, which doesn’t bother me, but bothers some people.

For those looking for another long form for Effie , Ophelie could be the answer. But just like I don’t feel Effie needs a long-form, I also don’t feel Ophelie needs a short form. Ophelie is perfect for those looking for something sweet and sophisticated. As a day-to-day name, Ophelie simply shines.

Readers: What do you think of Ophelie?

Photo credit: Ophelie 1 / Ophelie 2 


  1. Very pretty, but I find it quite difficult to pronounce – unless I think about it REALLY hard every time I say it, I keep saying oh-FAIL-yee, which obviously sounds terrible.

    Other French names don’t seem as difficult, as they often have the stress on the first syllable, like Elodie or Danielle. And popular ones with the stress at the end, like Elise, are usually short.

    • Yeah, I find the stress on the third syllable tricky. I always want to stress the second syllable. I’m not sure if that is common among English speakers or just something about me.

      • I thought it was just me (I still kind of think that), but maybe it is being an Anglophone.

        I much prefer Ophelia, especially as I don’t pronounce it oh-FEEL-ya.

        • Yes! With a name as beautiful as Ophelia you should pronounce each part – it has 4 not 3 syllables. o-fi-lee-ah.
          Ophelie is also wonderful but it is hard to say. And can sound like Awfully and worse Offally as in like offal. Na now I have ruined the name for you and I apologise!
          My friend’s 12-year-old son Milo just pointed out that a nickname for my newborn twin Phoebe (trending down it would seem) is Feeble. His mother kept hushing him and he kept saying it louder thinking we hadn’t got it. But I love Phoebe and Ophelia for similar reasons in fact. They look amazing written down – have unusual and compelling shape on a page – and sounds lyrical.

  2. My name is ophélie I’m French and honestly this is so true I love to here and read things on my name 😊😊 a lot of people in public such as schools and teachers get my name wrong. I get used to teaching them how to pronounce my name. I have always been so happy to go to France and find other people with my name. It makes me feel like I’m not the only French-American girl out here with a French name.

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